October can be such a harsh month.
Restless and unable to sleep, I watch Pedro Almodovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! on cable, a sadistic romance featuring a recovering smack-addict porn actress and her kidnapper, a formerly institutionalized criminal orphaned at the age of three.
At 4am, shaven-pated Antonio Banderes is scary, his brown doe-eyes unwavering as he gazes upon the abducted object of his desire; he simply wants to create the perfect family.
I flip channels during commercial breaks, one eye cocked on clock. There is meagre comfort in infomercials, plans explained with bleached-white smiles, for elite bodies and college, Gerber-style. Snoop Dogg endorses videos that star "real college girls": blond plump-cheeked girls whose tongues loll in their mouths like they had learned sexiness from straight pornos ogled late-night with their football-star Boyfriends, while their parents snored abed upstairs.
When I return, Banderes is roaming the ruins of a village in daylight. Between thumb and finger he pinches a picture, of a little boy and two adults posing on a porch. It is this porch he seeks. It is a grey and silent and immured world, awful faery tales of state violence somewhere beyond the picture’s deceptive frame.
A few hours before, I helped Mel with her homework, breaking down the main points of a chapter in Naomi Klein’s book No Logo. Though she is brave in bars after 1am, she can hardly speak in class.
I’m shy like that too – brave in subterranean and dark places, strong-pinioned, often fueled by sweets, love, alcohol . . . and then quite shy during daylight, in places populated by daylight people, people who function with notions of nation and family and love secure, as if they are normal and entirely sane. Folks who function as if they do not risk becoming refugees, bombed-out of their homes.
I tell Mel that she should remember she is brave, generous and charismatic. Although she may not be as book-smart as her classmates, she’s smart, in a lean, muscled, takes-no-shit kinda way, because she came from the mountains, acquainting herself with non-mountain life while she worked through fucked-up family dynamics. So, yeah, she's smart. Wizened with a knowledge that her more privileged classmates may not have, despite access to expensive books and trust-funds and season-long adventures trotting the globe, return tickets tucked away in the satin linings of their Louis Vuitton suitcases.